Students win $5,000 at first Innovation Jam

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Photo by Meagan Casalino

Manuela Barcenas, The Charlatan

A group of nine students won $5,000 after pitching their “Complete Compost” idea at Ottawa’s first sustainability challenge Innovation Jam, held at Carleton on Nov. 9.

The event was organized by Student Energy Carleton (SEC), the first Ontario chapter of an international organization that aims to develop sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels and foster innovation among university students.

According to Roberto Chavez, SEC president, the idea of an Innovation Jam originated from an executive trip to Mexico to attend the Student Energy Summit in June.

“We saw an Innovation Jam, and we thought ‘this is the coolest thing, this is what we are about.’ So we thought that the best way to start our year was to have one of these events where students can learn actively by taking action,” Chavez said.

Eleven groups pitched their ideas in front of a panel of five experts in the fields of sustainability and environmental protection. Cameron Wales, Carly Parks, Kokeb Solomon, Jackie Bastianon, Kaylin Paquette, Julia Sterling, Natalie York, Jeff Thorslund, and David Hodgson made up the winning “Complete Compost” team.

“The goal is a cheap, accessible, purpose built green bin that will contain smells and prevent pests. If a pilot project at Carleton is successful, we want to see this city-wide,” Wales, a fourth-year student in public administration and policy management, said.

Wales’ team got a $5,000 sponsorship from the Social Planning Council of Ottawa to develop their idea, as well as the opportunity to present their plan to the City of Ottawa Environment and Climate Protection Committee.

“A lot of game-changing, society-changing ideas started on campuses, and whether it’s something that we hear that will lead to a major change, or just getting people thinking this way that will lead to a career or research further down the road, getting people thinking is good,” said David Chernushenko, the Committee Chair and city councillor, who gave the opening remarks at the event.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna attended as a keynote speaker and encouraged students to get involved in the international climate change conversation. She highlighted the importance of student innovation to come up with solutions for climate change.

“I love your generation because you are always pushing on action on climate change, but you’re also into innovation and thinking about things differently,” she said.

During her speech, McKenna said Ottawa has the potential to become the greenest capital in the world. According to her, getting students thinking and taking action through initiatives like the Innovation Jam can contribute to this goal.

“The Innovation Jam gave us a platform to present our idea, and the resources and opportunities we’ll need to make it happen. So we feel very lucky to have this support,” Wales said.

At the end of the night, another group of students was rewarded by Hatch, the Carleton University Students’ Association entrepreneurship centre.

Joe Lioce, Katherine Barrett, and Ben Hayward will be able to access the program’s workspace, discounts, and coaching to develop their “Tiny Homes” project, which will focus on developing affordable and environmentally sustainable houses.